Mohombi recently popped into MTV HQ where he had a chat with Vanessa Laker to talk all things music, working with Nelly and how he intends to bring entertainment back to the music industry, all exclusively for The Wrap Up...
Mohombi’s currently on our music channels and radio stations with his dynamic new single ‘Miss Me’ – an upbeat club track which features St. Louis rapper, Nelly. While he may seem like a new artist, the 24-year-old has been in the music industry for 12 years, having sold over half a million records and winning an African Grammy with his former group, Avalon. Since moving to L.A. in 2008, the half Swedish/half Congolese singer/songwriter signed to Red One’s 2101 record label and has his sights set on global stardom.
The Wrap Up: You’ve got a new single entitled, ‘Miss Me’. Tell us a little bit about the song…
Mohombi: ‘Miss Me’ is actually one of the first songs I wrote for my album. It’s a mid-tempo afro/pop song with urban influences and it features Nelly - which adds the rap element to it. He did amazing! I wanted to write a song about a night out, a regular night out after a hard week of work. When you just wanna relax and have a good time and you meet this amazing looking girl. You know, just a fun night, where you flirt and have a good time, but you don’t necessarily have to go to an after-party with the girl. The night can end when the club closes.
TWU: As you mentioned, the song features US rapper Nelly, so how did that collaboration come about?
Mohombi: It was absolutely amazing for me as an artist to have Nelly on board with this project. It’s a club track, it has a nice dance feeling to it, and so we wanted to have an MC on it. Somebody that could rap and bring his own flavour to it. We all know that Nelly is an original artist; he has his own style, so Nelly was the perfect choice. We sent him the track and he loved it. We got to shoot the video in L.A. a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing, we had a great time. Nelly’s a great guy…
TWU: ‘Miss Me’ is your UK debut single, so how important is it for you as artist to be established in the UK?
Mohombi: It’s very important for me, especially as a European artist. I grew up in Sweden - I’m half Swedish. I’ve been in Sweden most of my life and we’ve always looked at the UK as the main market to break in Europe. If you break in the UK, you have a huge impact on the whole of Europe. It’s an international market, with ethnic diversity. So yeah, breaking the UK is very import to me.
TWU: You’re the first artist signed to Red One’s 2101 record label. How did you meet the super-producer?
Mohombi: Yes, I am the first. It feels good to be an ambassador for him. I’ve been doing music for 12 years. I was born in the Congo, my dad is from Congo and my mum is Swedish. I’ve been doing music as long as I can remember. I worked in entertainment with my family and I grew up in a big family, 16 brothers and sisters, so I had to stand out. Whenever we had family dinners and parties, I would grab a mic and sing or dance. So when I got to Sweden, me and my brothers started a group. We had some success; we did well, but at one point in my life I wanted take my career to the next level. And that’s when I decided to pack my bags and do like every other dreamer and move to Los Angeles. When I got to L.A. I happened to move in the same building as a bunch of crazy guys. My neighbors and I would party every single day, it was so much fun. They were Swedish guys who happened to be a part of the Red One camp and at this point Red One had his first release with Lady GaGa with ‘Just Dance’. He was thinking about creating his own company and recruiting his own artists and I was just at the right place, at the right time. He really gets my vision. It’s the first time I met someone on that level, someone that didn’t wanna change me as an artist. It’s a great relationship and it goes beyond the music. We’re both African/Swedish and I’m also the Godfather of his son. The Red One camp is like a family.
TWU: You’re from Sweden and the Congo, so how does your cultural background impact your musical style?
Mohombi: It has a huge impact on my music and my artistry, because music is a big part of both of my cultures and that’s why I’ve given myself the name ‘AfroViking’. I’m a global guy. I speak six languages. I know both of my cultures equally, so obviously they have a huge impact on all my songs and everything from my clothing style, to the way I dance. My cultural background has a huge impact on my career.
TWU: You’re a respected songwriter too. How important is it for musicians in this day and age to write their own songs?
Mohombi: I find it personally really important because I can stand for my music. Just looking back at all the biggest entertainers in the world, they wrote songs, they created stuff. I can stand on stage and stand for every word because I wrote it. It came from me. It’s natural.
TWU: Which artists are you listening to at the moment and really liking?
Mohombi: My music style is so diverse. When I was a kid I used to listen to Elvis Presley with my sisters and then Run DMC with my brothers. Today my music taste is just as diverse. On my MP3 player I have Metallica, salsa music, African music, I love everything. Of course I stay up to date with chart music as well. The UK artist that I really like at the moment is Tinie Tempah.
TWU: Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Mohombi: I would like to collaborate with up-and-comers like myself who are trying to bring something original and different to the table. Artists who are a breath of fresh air. I respect Drake for what he’s done - a young lad from Canada who has blown up across the world. I wanna work with entertainers. I consider myself an entertainer. My mission is to bring back entertainment to the music business, like GaGa for example, she understood that. She’s a show-woman, it’s all about entertainment. That’s what I’m all about. I grew up on stage, it’s my gift, but I wanna share with the world, that I’m an entertainer.
TWU: Tell us a bit about your new album, ‘Movemeant’. What’s the meaning behind the title?
Mohombi: It is a movement. It’s something fresh and it’s something new. You’ve heard the type of music before, it’s not strange music, but I’ve mixed my African influences with a global pop sound. It’s a move-meant. Not only because I come with a new style, but also I consider it a move that was meant to be.
TWU: And when is out?
Mohombi: We’re looking at January 2011, so very soon. I can’t wait!
Mohombi: ‘Bumpy Ride’ – is out now.
Stay up to date with Mohombi on Twitter – www.twitter.com/Mohombi
Words: Vanessa Laker
Online editing: Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson